May 2005

Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Other Film Music by Wojciech Kilar
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra: Antoni Wit, Conductor
Naxos 8.557703
Released: 2005
Format: CD

by Anthony Di Marco

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

The first time I heard the music for "The Storm," I knew it was something special. That pivotal point in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where Lucy succumbs to Drakul’s considerable vampire charisma, possessed boundless passion and energy. Composer Kilar’s score perfectly matched Francis Ford Coppola’s rich, intoxicating visuals. It was a score unlike anything I had heard out of Hollywood. Even the love theme manages to be fiery without resorting to cloying, clichéd cues. It is music that I have come back to in order to revel in its grand themes of love and menace.

Naxos takes the popular tidbits from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and pads it with some of Kilar’s lesser-known efforts. The King of the Last Days, Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden, and Kilar’s most obscure works, The Beads of One Rosary and Pearl in the Crown, offer a point of reference for Kilar’s talents before Francis Ford Coppola snapped him up. It is through these older scores that one can hear Kilar’s early studies for his tragic vampire themes. The desperate mood of the music for Death and the Maiden has more than a passing resemblance to the retrospective and romantic moments between Mina and Drakul. And, via glorious writing for timpani, you can almost hear the violent character of "The Storm" ripping through "Miserere."

As with some other Naxos efforts, the recording is heavy on detail but a little light on color and harmonic texture. I found the original motion-picture soundtrack more alluring and emotionally powerful. I expect the music to drip with the audio equivalent of the oversaturated color that defined Michael Ballhaus’s cinematography. There are instances where conductor Antoni Wit’s restraint truncates the emotional power of specific cues. "The Storm" resonates with more orchestral bravado in the original soundtrack.

Despite these flaws, this is a satisfying effort for those who would like to know a little more about the heaven-sent talent of composer Wojciech Kilar. The CD was previously issued on the full price Marco Polo label. It, along with nine other titles, has now been transferred to the regular Naxos label, meaning a 50% cut in price. That’s a real boon for film-music collectors.